Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this Groundhog Day, which means spring is right around the corner. That is, if you want to take the word of a rodent in Pennsylvania—no offense, Phil. Whether we have an early spring or a long, brutal winter ahead, these waterfalls are year-round gems. A waterfall hike is also a great departure from the Valentine’s Day clichés with even more romance.
Lower South Falls | photo by Greg Lief | liefphotos.com
Just outside of Silverton (east of Salem), Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s largest state park with a sprawling 9,200 acres, and twenty-five miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding amid lush old-growth forest. The Trail of Ten Falls loop hike is a one-stop-shop for waterfalls. By the end, you might even grow tired of seeing beautiful waterfalls, if that’s even possible. Winter and early spring are good times to visit the park to avoid the throngs of summer wanderlusts.
Distance: 7.2 miles
Between Mollalla and Silverton, Abiqua and the Butte Creek falls’ trailheads are about five miles apart, so if you’re in the area with a day trip in mind, consider crossing both off the list. Abiqua Falls is an incredible free-falling waterfall, dropping ninety-two feet over a basaltic amphitheater. The rocky road and slippery, unmarked trail to Abiqua Falls make for a somewhat complicated journey well worth the reward. Just past the turn-off for Abiqua Falls is the trailhead for the Butte Creek falls, which is a wider and well-maintained trail leading to two beautiful falls. In the winter, the upper falls is a wide, solid sheet of water.
Distance: Abiqua Falls: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: Technically challenging
Distance: Butte Creek Falls Loop: 1.1 miles
photo by Greg Lief | liefphotos.com
Easily one of Oregon’s most famous waterfalls, Toketee Falls is a graceful two-tiered waterfall, flowing down a narrow gorge. In fact, “Toketee” can be loosely translated to “graceful” in the Chinook language. The trail meanders along the North Umpqua River under a canopy of old-growth Douglas fir, big leaf maple and Western red cedar. It’s an impressive sight, and after the short hike, you can treat yourself to a soak in the nearby Umpqua Hot Springs.
Distance: 0.4 mile
photo by Rob Kerr
Salt Creek Falls and Diamond Creek Falls are close to Willamette Pass, near Oakridge. At least for now, you’ll need to swap hiking boots for snowshoes. Falling 286 feet, Salt Creek Falls is Oregon’s second highest single drop waterfall (second to Multnomah Falls). In winter, the Salt Creek and Diamond Creek falls will likely be accompanied by snowy trees and spiraling icicles—a cool winter spectacle. In the summer, there are plenty of options to explore nearby, including another trail heading to Vivian Lake.
Distance: 5.8 mile
Drift Creek Falls itself isn’t the highlight of this trip—it’s the 240-foot suspension bridge offering an aerial view of the falls that makes this a popular site. The verdant Siuslaw National Forest is no eye sore, either. Just outside of Lincoln City, the Drift Creek Falls trail provides a leisurely outing through mystical woodlands.
Distance: 3 miles